As usual, you’re in for a treat today. Because if you’re anything like me – or like my friend, Christine, sometimes you try and Wonder Woman, Super Woman, Choose-Your-Favorite-Superhero take on the world …only to be reminded that this is the last thing you need to be doing. So, soak up and enjoy the words of this dear friend of mine. Enjoy, indeed.
As a little girl, my all-time favorite Halloween costume was Wonder Woman. Looking back, a toddler dressing up as a busty brunette in underwear and tall boots may not have been the most appropriate costume, but something about those Underoos changed me, inspired me. I was afraid of nothing, able to conquer any challenge, walk through any haunted house without batting an eye. I was invincible.
That must have been one powerful costume because to this day, there is still a broken little part of my brain that believes myself to be invincible. I forget I have limitations all the time, and when I encounter one of them, I have the incredible ability to push through, with a heroic smile on my face.
What usually happens is that I get myself into a pickle, up to my eyeballs in overcommitment until I figure out some way to make it through, or pass out trying, usually the latter.
Lately, though, I have been learning the hard lesson (and not very gracefully) of my limitations. Almost a full year of an undiagnosed illness has kept me from being able to work or care for my family, and much of my day is spent lying in bed.
As hard as it is to feel sick, one of the worst parts has been watching my hubby pick up my slack and carry my burden. Because we job share, he has not only taken on my responsibilities at work, but has also had to juggle our two toddlers when I cannot, which is often. When I see the worn out look on his face and hear the emptiness that can creep into his voice after a long day of tantrums and to-do lists, I start to panic, trying to find a way to muscle through and make this work.
Oftentimes, it feels like wading through quicksand – the more I struggle, the further I sink. I push through my symptoms to catch up on something that feels important, or get him out of the house to catch a baseball game with friends …and end up in bed for the rest of the day. For a Wonder Woman who’s spent her life taking on the world’s problems (not always well, and rarely neatly), lying in bed and watching things pile up can be torture.
Earlier this week, I had a particularly bad day. I had tried to take on too much, and ended up keeping my hubby from work for half the day while I recovered. And on top of that, I found a tiny bald spot on the back of my head where my once-thick-and-lovely hair was revealing the toll that my mysterious illness has taken.
Lying in bed, I replayed in my mind the worn out look on my hubby’s face as I left him with the kids, and tried desperately to think of something that I could do to fix it. Reaching over to my night stand, I picked up my journal, flipping through at random in the hopes of finding something – anything – useful.
And on June 5th, without elaboration, was this verse:
“We pray that you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul– not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory strength that God gives. It is the strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us.” (Colossians 1)
I felt anything but strong and a long way from joy. What hurt in that moment was the feeling that life was happening without me, and that the more I tried, the less I was able to participate in it. But that prayer: to be able to take part in everything bright and beautiful that my Creator has for me.
Clicking on my phone, I began scrolling through my pictures from the last several months. I’m not quite sure why I did it, except that I needed to be reminded of the things I had participated in – what was under my belt, so to speak.
There was a selfie, requested by my four year old, with both of my boys squeezed in, making goofy faces at the camera; a video of my oldest, reciting facts about “noc-turtle” dinosaurs; pictures from the first day of preschool; a rare dinner out to celebrate my hubby’s birthday; and a perfect day at Balboa Island, sharing an ice cream bar with my boys from the very same ice cream shop I visited as a little girl.
And there it was: joy – deep, rich, and strong. All those bright and beautiful things I had been able to take part in, they were right there: simple, everyday occurrences that make life Life. As little as it was, that small act of scrolling through my photo reel caused something to settle inside. There was no sudden discovery of newfound strength – I simply didn’t need to grit my teeth and push through.
No elaborate prayers of thanksgiving were prayed, no Hallelujah choruses broke out. To be honest, all I did was turn out the light and go to sleep. But I knew that something inside me was entering back into Life, alongside its author.